The I-5 express lanes have really become an easy target for graffiti vandals and taggers recently, namely because the lanes are closed at night and the vandals and their markers have almost free reign.
While doing a routine check of the express lanes with their traffic cameras, the WSDOT captured video of a woman with a thick black marker, tagging signs, poles, guard rails. Police released the video to the Problem Solvers after we showed how the I-5 express lanes have become a hot target for taggers.
The video shows in the span if two minutes, the vandal had marked up five different areas, some already laden with graffiti. And just as quickly, she was on her way.
"I think it has gotten worse," said Tim Ditch, who leads a repainting crew on state highways as fast as they can. "It's a lot easier for them to paint a lot of this stuff than it is for us to cover it."
For example, on Tuesday, graffiti was evident on one wall on the express lanes near the Ship Canal Bridge. On Wednesday, a state painting crew painted over the graffiti and it was gone.
On Thursday, new graffiti on the same wall.
"Graffiti is a crime where they essentially leave a signed confession at the crime scene," said Det. Christopher Young with Seattle police.
Word on the street is the express lanes are an easy target because they are closed at night. This woman was tagging at the 42nd Street entrance to the express lanes -- a place Young says taggers can simply walk onto the lanes when they are closed at night.
"There is a myth that its all kids," Young said. "Most of my taggers are adults. I'd say the average age is 25 years old."
The state spends nearly $185,000 a year on graffiti clean up on Puget Sound highways.
"We would rather put that money for use in other places that deal with the roads and not so much covering up some knucklehead's public artwork project," said Bart Treece with the WSDOT.
While a tag is much is akin to a signed confession, having a camera catch the confession in the act is somewhat rare as this woman may soon find out.
If you recognize the woman, you are asked to call the Seattle Police Department.
WSDOT says it keeps the express lanes closed at night because the traffic volumes are low on the main lines and it's to reduce the noise level for the Eastlake neighborhood.